Reaching out to alcohol addicts

It is critical to consider counselling before a person becomes completely addicted in order to assist people who are unable to cope with life and choose to overdo it. PHOTO | COURTESY

Summary

  • According to the WHO report, alcohol addiction accounts for more than 5 percent of the worldwide illness burden

Many consider alcohol in moderation a useful stress reliever. Yet for some, it has morphed into a destructive but addictive stimulant that destroys their social lives and ruins their ability to function at their highest level.

People frequently turn to binge drinking due to trauma, sexual assault, stress from their workloads, and a lack of knowledge on how to deal with various obstacles in life.

In excess, the body and mind slowly become rewired by its numbing effect in order to carry out basic tasks.

Alcohol addiction accounts for more than 5 percent of the worldwide illness burden, as per a September 2018 report released by the World Health Organization (WHO) on the global status of alcohol and health.

Furthermore, alcohol has been proven to agitate the possibility of various health problems, including high blood pressure, liver disease, heart disease, and cancer of the rectum, liver, colon, throat, or oesophagus.

Selemani Suleiman, a resident of Kijitonyama in Dar es Salaam and a former alcoholic, noted that alcohol brought to him a community of people who fed his flailing confidence by complimenting and acknowledging what he wasn’t.

He also admitted feeling lonely and desirous of the company.

When there was little to no money for alcohol, his addiction drove him to seek out cheaper drinks costing roughly 200 Tanzanian shillings.

“I always thought that no one loved me in my family, so alcohol always made me feel desired because it acknowledged me. I became addicted to the point that I was put in hospital,” he said.

When the doctor informed him that his liver was in bad shape because of his addiction, he realised he had to stop.

“My turning point was when I was told my liver was damaged and I was unconscious for a month. Family members need to understand what we are going through, instead of shouting about our behaviours. We need them to guide us and give us help because we are going through a lot,” he explains.

A Sinza Makaburini resident, Noel Junior claims that he decided to stop drinking after taking a few sips of alcohol laced with kerosene.

“I became so dependent on booze, I even began to adore it. I recall taking a sip one day and beginning to vomit blood till I was rushed to drink milk,” he recalls.

He further added, “They sold me a bottle of spirits, but inside they mixed it with kerosene and I didn’t know. Luckily enough, I was rushed to the hospital.”

In addition to Selemani and Noel Junior; John Chelse (not his real name) also battled addiction without realising it until he lost his family and work as a result of binge drinking.

“I became an expert in all kinds of liquor. I reached the point where I added pills so that I could feel its vibe. I lost my job because of the booze, and later I got separated from my wife because of my poor behaviour,” explains John.

For many people, when they see an alcoholic, they assume it was their choice.

“It’s not like we decided to be that way! On the contrary, we need help from people because we don’t know where to go to express what we feel or the life situations we go through. We don’t drink to have fun; we drink to escape problems and anxiety,” he warns.

Suzy Daniel, who also resides in Kijitonyama, notes that her relationship with alcohol began when her friends introduced it to her rather than helping her deal with her stress.

“I had never tasted alcohol before, but friends pushed me to try some spirits because it would create the new me with no stress. From there on it had become my daily routine until I became addicted to alcohol,” she narrates.

She eventually had to sell all she owned in order to buy the bottle of alcohol she needed to satisfy her drinking addiction. Suzy had struggled for years to conceive and carry her pregnancy to term and she was overjoyed when she finally welcomed her baby girl.

However, she lost her miracle child when she was 7-years-old and this loss left her in a bad place. Hoping to get support from her friends, she was introduced to alcohol by them to help her cope.

Alcohol addiction can occur anywhere and at any moment according to Surah Nyembo, chairman and executive director of the Drug Abuse Prevention Organization (DAPO).

Nyembo said that alcohol and marijuana users are currently the most addicted people in the nation.

“Right now, more than 70 percent of the people we receive are addicted to alcohol and marijuana compared to the olden days. Other substances such as heroine and cocaine amount to 30 percent compared to past years,” Nyembo elaborates.

Most of the time, these drugs are consumed for relaxation, fun, or pain relief.

Alcohol users are aware that drinking causes significant bodily harm, but they use it anyway because it provides them an escape. Besides, the side effects of trying to break free often result in strange illnesses because the body is deprived of a stimulant it desires.

It’s not easy to understand the struggles of an alcoholic unless you’ve been one yourself. And it can be difficult for a family and immediate circles to understand the plight of the alcoholic, especially if that’s the first addict they’ve had within their circles.

To receive special medical attention, according to Nyembo, the alcohol abuser must first pass a series of tests to ensure that the treatment centre’s procedures won’t conflict with any medications they are already on.

“Often when we receive a patient who is dependent on alcohol, we take them to hospital first for a medical scan to check for other problems such as HIV, hepatitis, or kidney disease,” he explains.

Treatment begins with the patient. To stop their heavy drinking habit, they must first be aware of their situation and have the desire to do so.

Family and friends are expected to devise methods for alcohol intervention whenever a person admits they have a drinking problem.

Here are the stages that are employed by numerous rehab centres to guarantee that the addict is cured:


Detoxification

Detoxification is the first significant step in quitting drinking. When a person gets off the bottle, they start going through withdrawals.

This stage, which is the initial step in the recovery process, is entirely necessary to getting rid of alcohol from your body.

According to Nyembo, the detoxification process is typically carried out when people don’t want medication to interfere with other bodily functions.

“After detoxification, the patient returns to the centre and relaxes for a week while taking medication the doctor ordered,” he explains.

“There are some drugs that don’t need interaction with other drugs, so doing this is very helpful. After detoxification the patient returns to the centre and rests for a week, using the drugs prescribed by the doctor,” he recounts.


Rehabilitation

Following the detoxification stage, the individual will begin rehabilitation. At this stage, many types of therapy are employed towards helping an addicted person confront their habit and its causes.

Since they are unable to manage their current feelings, people with addictions frequently wake up with a variety of emotions every day.

Therefore, receiving compassionate advice on how to deal with an addiction comes through recovery.

“To help the alcohol addict, there are different programs which the patient takes, including behavioural therapy, family therapy and how to help them avoid and control emotional challenges,” says Nyembo.

Additionally, the stage teaches coping mechanisms that the individual might use once they leave rehab.

Education is usually a top priority for DAPO when it comes to rehabilitation because it helps people become better and prevents them from becoming binge drinkers.

“Most of the time we go to the college centre and schools to make sure that they’re aware about drug abuse. Through that, we are making sure that everything will be treated fine, because education is everything in making sure these people are treated,” says Nyembo.


Maintenance

The person starts to progressively acclimatize themselves to daily life during the maintenance stage.

Here, the addicted person is given the opportunity to gradually get back into the swing of things while learning the value of “me-time.”

A person must go to support groups so they can encourage and interact with others going through recovery.

Alcoholism and other drug-related issues are all caused by people’s worry and despair, which makes them less productive at work and more likely to spend time alone because they feel lonely.

However, it’s crucial to think about counselling before a person becomes entirely addicted to aid people who can’t handle life and choose to overdrink.

Someone who can speak boldly without passing judgment is what is required. Speaking up and being open about what you’re experiencing mentally can be frightening.

Dominick Asman, a human resources manager at the Velda Studios Company, mentioned that counselling is necessary but that it will take time.

“Excessive use of alcohol has become a big challenge nowadays. Employees won’t tell you what they feel unless you’re someone close, but in most offices the higher-ups don’t really care. What they want from you is your productivity and nothing else,” he says.

The reason that therapy is not HR’s responsibility is that counsellors are trained professionals who don’t pass judgment when you tell them what’s bothering you.

“Most employees think that it’s the HR’s job to deal with anxiety, depression, stress and workload of employees, but that’s wrong since we do need special people who can assist them. Besides, it’s very rare to have companies that give their employees a rehab leave because when a person goes for leave, who’s going to cover their role?” says Dominic.